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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 8, 2015 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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harder, and i remember i was mike huckabee's chairman and we were doing an event in iowa, and we had a room. he started going out to be the places with 10 people. by the end you have every major press person in the world. we did a press conference, and we had 150 bloggers, and another 500 on the phone. with the mainstream media, we did not let them ask questions. we said this is the future. it is controlling that message, and that is going to be very hard. it is just magnified 1000 times what it used to be. we used to have an office in times square, and you'd walk into times where and you are bombarded by billboards, lies, and all of that. it will be in a extraordinary challenge for campaigns and all of that.
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ed rollins: and it is going to get much worse. howard dean: it is a fraction of what it was before. the average age is well over 50. the average age of if you were on msnbc is 62 years old. on fox it is 68 years old. the bell curve stops at 35. no one over 35 watches any of this stuff. facts [inaudible] [laughter]
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>> the truth of the matter is that all of this stuff, the evening route -- evening news, still the biggest way of getting the news out, is disappearing. we are in the big first quarter. for this problem of controlling messages, it's only going to get more difficult as people get their news in different ways. believe me, if something is on the front page of "the new york times," "the l a times," or one of the three big networks, it's still a big story, but not as will -- big as it used to be. in 15 years that may not be true anymore. >> one of the most fascinating things to track overtimes in the white house is the seating and how it's changed. there is a new seating chart. it is all that we would consider legacy media.
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newspapers that don't even exist anymore, sitting in the living room. this morning they added buzz feed and yahoo!. >> i wanted to ask one more question before turning it over to the audience. we started off talking about how to communicate internally and then externally the message. it's one of the things that i think that people don't understand. it's not as if the word manipulation has not come up. if you are lying in, if you are concealing important evidence, that is one thing. one of the things that i discovered back in city hall, you had to be a policy meetings. it is a good thing that someone
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in the meeting, how would we feel it decision was somewhere in the daily news. you can talk about the way in which the pr people are not simply implementers of a strategy. ron: one of the offices that you have not heard of is the office of the staff secretary in the white house. largely out of public view, largely unknown is one of the most powerful in the white house, the staff secretary feels with all the paper flow that comes to and from the president. let's suppose the you have briefed the president in the oval office. howard dean, of course you would not say howard dean, but howard dean, i've articulated what i
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need to get the tax cut through in 2001. every head of office will look at the governor's memo and say -- this looks good to me. or they will say, paragraph three, i don't agree. before something gets to the president every single major department head has to sign off on that document and say that the president and the senior staff have seen this, we have gone to the necessary cabinet agencies, this articulates your policy position. how that relates to you getting into the oval office related to the pr apparatus, in our policy breathing for the last three years i cannot think of a time in oval office that we did not have either ari fleischer, scott mcclellan, or someone from the communications office sitting there. her presence was not as a policy role, but if they could not communicate what the policy message was, then we were off
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message. it was all about discipline and making sure that we are on the same page. for us to stay on the same page that meant that the communicators and policy geeks had to find a way to work together. the policy people were saying -- here is exactly the president's policy. communicators of course want to find a sex year way of -- sexier way of putting it out there. it doesn't work in a soundbite, we have a strong relationship between the press and the communicators. if they could not articulate the president's policy, it did not matter what the president was trying to convey. >> it is important not to think that pr -- and i completely agree with the premise, the press secretary always has to know it's happening.
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public policy, in no administration i have been in, you don't make decisions to do good pr. you have to sell your policy decisions. the vast majority of people the vast majority of people around the administration's do what they think is in the best interest of the country. but then you have to sell it. obviously these things are difficult to sell and there is always a counterpoint. one of the difficulties of the administration, reporters go out to do their own thing. homeland security, on the tragic crash in the alps, as with something else, you're always fighting to make sure that whatever your best plan is that you can go out.
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i think the key thing that we have to understand here, one of the things occurring today that never has before, as the rest of them understand american pr and they tell their story effectively as chopping off a man's head, or a man, setting them on fire, people say my god, so outrageous, that is what terrorism is about. suddenly you have a guy being beheaded on network television that night and the message of the day from the white house is probably diminished -- diminished dramatically and they want you to respond to whatever that may be. it's very hard and there are a lot of conflicts on the messaging side of it. julie: bush always call the press the filter. he always said it like that. he thought that the filter distorted his words. that they put it through a sieve of darkness. he started and president obama i believe has perfected a system of state run media.
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when we covered bush we thought he was terrible. no access, no accountability. compared to obama bush is like the most open, giving, sharing person you could america that you could imagine. his press shop is much more open than the current administration. of course they want to come out and tell their good, positive up story. they have their own pr operation, that's not what we want to do. they control through denial. which was great at taking questions on the fly, to the detriment of the message of the day area he would sit there until you are done and take whatever? that was on your mind. in that way the administration was able to move through stories quickly.
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now you see the president holding back, we won't hear from him for months and it is like this firehose. reporters are finally asking 12 part questions. there is so much to ask him because the cycle just moves on and on. when i talk about state run media talking about photo releases. instead of a routine signing of note, which the president -- which president bush would do, now we don't have that. we get a photo taken by a white house photographer that is handed out, which is no different from them writing out a press release and expecting that to go in the paper without any scrutiny or accountability. this president doesn't like the press. bush didn't like what the press did, but he understood and respected the role that the
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press played. he was much more accessible in a casual way, like those oval office encounters with reporters just lobbying quest that lobbing questions. president obama doesn't do it. throw both administrations reporters found the most useful information comes from outside the administration. people on the hill are gold, they love to talk. also in the diplomatic corps and the agencies, but you don't go to the briefing to get your news. dean: i will share with you some of the tricks of the trade. we would go out on the road to do small paper interviews. they were thrilled. they would usually write it the way that i wanted it to write it.
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bigger papers without do that. in defense of the big papers, they are not going to write the same story every day, but you have to give the saints each every day five times per day because that is what you do on a campaign to stay on message. i could do it for the 25th time on a friday and the big papers will not write that, they will find something else. they will delve into some opposition research, this kind of stuff. it is of course in my interest to limit that. in defense of president obama, the reason he does not do many bill signings is because the house is not pass many bills. julie: i was just using that as an example. howard: if you had been hillary clinton, would you have wanted anyone else there? julie: it is just a system where the next has -- next president, ted cruz, will bring it to the next level.
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[laughter] moderator: you heard it here first. i have got a couple of people here with microphones. student questions first if we can. right there. yes? student: david schreck. this question is for mr. christie. i was wondering, what was the message being communicated after the week of 9/11? ron: it was -- it was a tough day for the country. it was a tough day to be in the white house. a tough day for me to advise the vice president of the united states.
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our entire focus went from what we call domestic priorities to working on a tax-cut to domestic consequences. we grounded all civil aviation. we closed most of the maritime ports in the country. a few days later the president had a national prayer celebration. in the days after the celebration the focus went to prayer and remembrance. as well as those who brought the opportunity to heal as a country. if you look at what our message was, president bush tried to reassure the country that every agency and every entity was doing everything that they could to prevent an attack on the country again and that we needed to move forward and heal and
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that the terrorists would win if we succumbed and set around and felt sorry for ourselves. it was very difficult for us as a country and very difficult in the white house, but ultimately -- julie mentioned this earlier, you notice that his approval ratings went up into the 90's because in the early messaging people felt that he was doing everything that he could to protect the country. >> just as an observer, there was a memorial at the national cathedral. there have been lots of stories about the president, what was going on in the white house, the president reading to young kids and what have you. no one was sure who was going to be in charge. we had this extraordinary service televised and billy graham gave this extraordinary speech.
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one of the great religious leaders of this country. the president followed him and said -- i said to myself having worked for several presidents, if there's ever a time to hit a home run, it's now. he did. he gave an extraordinary speech. he went right from there, he came to new york, you got a great photograph with the firefighters. a firefighter came on the stage. those two events, it was more powerful than the message. the message was -- we are not going to beat us, we are in charge. sometimes the activity, the flyby, like on katrina, that was a foolish effort on the part of the white house to show that the president was not in charge and the white house picture was not a deliberate effort. but the president's activities are sometimes more powerful than anything else. i think that that was the message, that he was back in charge, they were not going to
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get to us. that was the president at his finest because it was him and he is a man with real integrity, a man who was always underestimated and basically rose and grew in a job drink very difficult times. moderator: can we do the question two rows in front? thank you. >> this is for any of the panelists. i was wondering if you could talk about the effects of new technology and modern media, the state that modern media has had on speechwriting. is the era of a great memorable speech over? can it be adapted to fit within 140 characters? >> i don't think that it is over. there will always be a role for that. a couple of things haven't set appeared that i think are incredibly important to remember. the first is that the president has a role and everyone looks to the president at a time of great
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crisis. at that time everyone is going to focus on that and anyone who does not is not paying attention. you're right, there is a lot about recipes on a day when something like that going on, fine, good luck read that is focusing on. another thing that ed said. the visual is always just more important than what we say. if i want to find out how effective it is, i will turn the sound off. it does not matter what you say, it is how you say it. if you look confident, like a leader, like a president, you have done well. it almost doesn't matter unless you say something absolutely outrageous, which some of us on the stage have done from time to time. [laughter]
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ed: you are not allowed, howard. -- not alone, howard. howard: but there is always that moment of central crisis. the visual of george bush standing there with a bullhorn, he could have said that he was having spaghetti for dinner and as long as he was forceful and he meant it, he would have gotten great credit. ed: i traveled with ronald reagan every day for six years and he asked -- how long be think i can hold an audience? i don't he was one of the greatest speech makers in the world. he said -- watch the audience. the first five minutes is adulation, it does not matter what you say.
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he said 220, you coast through the middle and kick in the end. he said -- watch the audience for 20 to 23 minutes. why do you think that television shows are 23 minutes, 27 with commercials? my point is, you cannot have the bill clinton speeches that go on for an hour and a half and keep adding points. you have to think in terms of in the future getting your message across in 25 minutes, making it count, making it memorable with some lines in there. i started my life as a speechwriter and richard nixon, a guy viewed not so much as a great speech maker but a guy with great writers around him. he used to make them underlined the soundbite a lot. nine times out of 10 once you did the drill, that would be the soundbite because that is all the soundbite be.
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8, 10, 12 seconds. now you have to put together a string of eight to 10 soundbites. but you have to weed that together. it is more difficult to write speeches today. sometimes some of the great speed rager -- speechwriter's -- like taking in. they write for the history books. she understood spoken word while reagan, having been the communicator, built movies and commentary and what have you. he understood the spoken word was different from the written word. writing for the written word, you hear it differently than visually, is very important in this day and age. >> other questions? >> down there? >> thank you.
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building off the previous question, i wondered, how quickly will the innovation of technology affect policymaking in the future? >> you mean policymaking directly about technology or in the broadest sense?
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civilians but also from a military and point. relatively speaking it tends to be slower. it in terms of the bush administration to the modern day we have seen rapid leaps and bounds in the types of technology available all around us. i was wondering how managing policymaking, what are the changes we will be seeing? >> in terms of the technology itself, you are seeing huge battles over things that most americans do not understand. like net neutrality. if you ask down in the subway this afternoon, anyone over 40 would have no idea what you are talking about, chances are. those are huge battlegrounds. i think that they are not well understood by the people making the policies, because most of them are over 40. there are long-term implications by people who well understand it. this morning mica gave a terrific talk about the balance between listening in and how many people you could listen in on. a few people, all of the things that you needed to do, security threats to the country, 300 million people coloring things electronically. clearly.
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you cannot do it any other way. since you do not have a nationstate that is a danger to us as much as a diffuse movement of individuals, anyone of home -- whom could harm people. you have to have this huge catch. security policy will change dramatically and is already changing dramatically. finally, of course, we go back to what we have been talking about, the nature of technology changing, changing the way in which you talk about policy in the way that you talk about policy having to change, the way you formulate privacy having to change. julie: one of the things that we notice in washington is that
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laws and regulations are keeping up with technology. the patriot act and nsa surveillance, keeping up with how fast technology grows. also, members of congress are not always that tech savvy. lindsey graham saying that he has never sent an e-mail, these are u.s. senators. ed: well, it is not a requirement to be a twitter expert to be a senator. [laughter] ron: i was not a great student -- ed: i was not a great student. i was in the upper two thirds of my graduating class because i'm sure the bottom floor. -- flunked. i was always a reader. i read six newspapers per day. i knew every point of view, from the liberal kennedy democrat to the right of most people in this room, probably. at the end of the day i think one of the things that bothered me in the technology question was people were very narrow in what they wanted to read.
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i'm not going to read this conservative junk. i'm going to read this so that i know it's happening. my sense is that that is dangerous long-term as it reinforces the point of view, there is no flexibility. what i have said repeatedly here to my students and to people around the country, all the issues that we deal with today as americans, all of these issues are all very complex. if there were easy answers, it would be done. they would fix education in new york city with his dedication based on other things. if it were easy -- it's not. he doesn't want another run at it. at the end of the day i just hope that you young people, when you think in terms of policy you have to have a broader scope.
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the thing that scares me the most about technology -- i have my ipad, i basically do everything i can for those who watch fox news, who appear on fox news with the other 4 million people, we have this running -- he has 200,000 people watching him on msnbc and he brags about that all the time and i write about 4 million. that's what howard says every day. [laughter] i think the most telling thing to me as a statistic, 96 million jobs will be eliminated in the next 10 years by technology. that is a very significant number. we basically have to think in terms of policy questions. technology is great. how do we create 96 million jobs in other areas? in different societies, a blacksmith, a medical man, the blacksmith was every bit as valuable back then.
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today the difference between the most educated, many of you here, and those who are not educated, who cannot deal with technology, it's not just the economic cap, -- gap, it's the ability to deal in the next new world that scares and frightens me that we need to deal with. ron: let me take a minute to relate to the question of policymaking and the bush white house. 9/11 exposed for us that we were not prepared. remember when president bush left sarasota and flew across the country? the technology was not sufficient enough for him to be able to communicate with his advisers. there was spotty communication. sometimes there would be a signal, sometimes it would go out. all of the times across the country they had to tune in to local news stations on air force one because they did not have the technology to communicate through more secure
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communications. for us, with the vice president being often gone, we had to communicate with him through secure satellite feeds. sometimes those would go out. the white house situation room had to be dramatically upgraded at the same time when he conducted those meetings. the obama administration has really benefited from the advancement of technology. i can tell you, on september 11, 2001, it showed how inadequate that was so that he could formulate these policies. moderator: at the back of the room, there? >> my question is directed towards ed rollins. you said that the message should be controlled, but over the last
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50 years clearly the people don't have control. it didn't work for nixon, he had to resign. you should try to work through the clutter. it should be not just try to stay in the same position so that you can get your message straight across? ed: when i say controlled, i'm talking in terms of a message. basically on the governor of the state, i want to talk about the things that are important to the country. i need support from the country to get something passed the congress or what have you. during the obama care debate the president needed to control the agenda to get people across the country to support his program. if i stood up and said -- let's talk about 50 other things, i'm talking about the element of how you do your messaging.
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any of you that are going to get into communications, you have to understand, it's not negative, it's positive. if you want to have a conversation with someone and you have a point of view, you don't want to talk about 55,000 things. like the guy in the country club who sits next to the guy in the bar and asks if you like sports -- i love sports. this guy proceeds for the next 40 minutes to talk about golf. i walk out and i'm bored to death and i go to my wife and she asks about the conversation and i say terrible. you have got to ask that second question. football, baseball. my point is that as a president does not do good for the president, i'm not going to be able to articulate my message.
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my message is this. obama care is the important thing for me this week. the iran contra deal is the important thing for me this week. i have to use the media as my vehicle to the country. it's not manipulated. iran contra, we would much rather not have had it. that had nothing to do with messaging. monica lewinsky was something the president would rather have not debated. my point here is how you communicate with the country. the country wants to know what the government and the leader is doing. moderator: more questions there at the very back? >> thank you. i would like to compliment your panelists for living history. you are part of this great american story. now i have a futuristic question. i would like to ask you all to comment -- do you see jeb bush as the next president, or his good friend hillary clinton as the next president?
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ed: maybe. [laughter] i think that jeb bush is an extraordinary man. he was always the bush that was assumed to someday be the president. we have got a very crowded field on our side. probably the best field of candidates from 1980. several very competent governors, several senators. some very articulate men and a woman in the race at this point. we probably have 20 candidates. for him to win, he's got to -- it's not going to get handed to him. he's got to run an effective campaign. i think that in the case of
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hillary clinton, it's a little bit different. if her name was bill clinton junior, she might be challenged. she's not being challenged at this point in time. i'm not the expert on democrats, but i don't think anyone will run against her with any significance. i think she will be the nominee. it could easily be a bush-clinton campaign. at this point in time of my side it's too difficult to predict. julie: there have been a lot of focus groups and polls and stuff showing jeb bush having problems in the early states, voters are hostile towards him. his name, his positions on common core and immigration and more. i don't think that he is a lock to get the republican nomination at all. i think it's a folly to try to predict this early. hillary clinton, her disapproval ratings are going up as she gets more partisan.
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she has benefited from high job approval numbers from when she was secretary of state. i think that the democratic voters are going to wish that they had more choices. >> i think that hillary is likely to be the nominee, who knows what happens in politics. republicans, i think the most formidable candidate would be jeb bush. he is closer to the center than the other candidates on the republican side. i think that this is a center country. i agree that jeb bush may not win. scott walker, who i think is basically an empty suit devoid of principles is a hell of a politician. if the conservative vote crystallizes around him, they could dispossess him of the nomination.
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ted cruz is going to pull off the people who have no platform whatsoever except i hate everything. he's clearly unqualified to be president i would not support k-6, but he is the real deal. there are a few other people it is fun for us. ed: these other governors, from other states, they are not qualified.
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howard: as you may remember, i get my ass kicked. [laughter] ron: the interesting thing about american politics, take sarah palin. the next day she had 300% name id. in this day and age today, we have 31 governors. i like john kasich every bit as much. to a certain extent the field, the big important field, we will have a formidable candidate to run against mrs. clinton. moderator: to be continued. thanks to our panelists, thanks to you for coming. [applause] there are many more panels over the course of the day.
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i encourage everyone to attend as many as possible. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> on today's washington journal, boston globe political theor, shirov center on 2016 presidential campaign. congress returns from its summer recess. theer -- congress debates iran nuclear agreement. pope francis addresses a meeting later this month. we will talk about all of that with stephen dennis who covers the senate. washington journal, live with today's headlines, every morning on c-span at 7:00 a.m. eastern.
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>> the house and senate returned from their summer recess this week, and get right to work on the iran nuclear agreement, particularly in resolution of disapproval of that agreement or a getting set to cover that debate is laura barron lopez who covers congress for "huffington post." let's start in the senate, who will be some of the key players on tuesday? laura: thank you for having me. in the senate right now, the administration is pretty confident the democrats will be able to protect this deal that he has crafted with p5+1. what is going to happen is that so far 38 democrats have announced their support for the deal. if you shy of the number needed to filibuster if they wanted to. so the debate will be heated and they will start tuesday. it looks like even if it does
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pass the senate, democrats will have the votes to sustain a presidential veto. >> one of the votes they will not get, and it becomes another one in opposition -- ben cardin, the ranking member. he wrote about his opposition friday and here is his tweet regarding the iran deal -- this is a close call, but after a lengthy review, i will vote to disapprove. how does his opposition, or does it change at all, the nature of the debate in the senate? laura: i think senator ben cardin's opposition very much embodies how difficult this issue has been for all of the senators, all of the congress members, every single person , whether they come for it or against it has said this has been the most difficult decision to have ever had to make as a lawmaker. ben cardin didn't really know where he was going to go, so now
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he is the third democrat on top of a crowd on top of senator schumer and senator bob menendez to say that he is going to vote against the deal. when it comes down to the numbers and the process, i do not think the administration is going to be sweating it too much because they know they have the votes in the senate to sustain the veto. >> let's take a look at the house, earlier, nancy pelosi's desk nancy pelosi sent out a colleagues letter about getting everybody on board to support the iran deal, the rules committee takes it up in the house on tuesday evening for a debate beginning midweek. what does the debate look like in the house and who will some of the floor leaders be there? laura: the house is a bit more fluid right now in the colleague letter that you mentioned. minority leader pelosi did say that they have well over 100 democrats that have come out in support of the deal, but they need 146 in order to sustain a
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presidential veto. they are not quite there yet. she has been very aggressive over the august recess and administration has been to make sure that they are trying to get the support that they need. it is going to be very interesting next week. >> let's go back to the senate for a second. we didn't touch on the talk of potential for democrats to be able to filibuster, be able to prevent this from ever coming to a final vote. the number they were talking about was 41 with 38 now in favor of the deal. our democratic leaders in the senate indicating at all that they might have the ability to stop this from coming to a final vote? laura: because they are so close to the 41 number, as you said, it will be interesting to see if they decide to do that. people in senator durbin's
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office have said that the democrats are not planning to filibuster, and senator joe manchin, one of the undecided still left -- there are five undecided democrats left -- said he would not support a filibuster. the rest that are undecided, because it is such an intense debate, they may not end up getting the vote. >> laura lopez covers congress for "huffington post." read more at huffington and follow her on twitter. thank you for the update. >> our coverage of the iran latest deal continues day with former vice president, dick cheney. we have live on c-span2 at nine clock eastern. at 10:00 today, gary reed explains why he supports the deal and why he thinks it will prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
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we have it live here at 10:00 a.m. at 1:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, a senator on the other side of the issue, lindsey graham, he speaks at the national press club on why he opposes the deal. see that life here on c-span at 1:00 p.m. beginsse rules committee -- the resolution that formally declares that congress disapproves of the iran deal. ,t is at 5:00 p.m. today lifetime c-span3. >> now president obama to space and roundtable discussion on poverty in america. he was joined by harvard university professor robert putman and arthur brooks fred this event was held at georgetown university. it is one hour and 15 minutes. [applause] university. it is one hour and 15 minutes.
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[applause] eugene "e.j." joseph dionne jr.: it's a real honor to be here today with my two presidents -- president obama and president degioia. and my friend, david brooks, hurled the most vicious insult at me ever once when he said that i was the only person he ever met whose eyes lit up at the words, "panel discussion." and i have to confess my eyes did light up when i was asked to do this particular panel discussion -- and not just for the obvious reason, to my left -- and, again, it's a real honor to be with you, mr. president -- or arthur or bob. i salute georgetown and all of
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the other extra day people who are gathered here for the poverty summit of all religious traditions all over the country. our friend jim wallace once said, if you cut everything jesus said about the poor out of the gospel you have a book full of holes. angelicals, catholics and others who understand what the scripture said. points, theanizing first is when it's time to go, please keep your seat so the president can be escorted out. the other is that bob and arthur and i all agreed that we should direct somewhat more attention to president obama than to the other members of the panel. [laughter] i just say that -- i say that in advance so that you know this was our call and not some exercise in executive power. [laughter] this is our decision to do that. [applause]
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in any event we hope this will , be a back-and-forth kind of discussion. bob and arthur, feel free to interrupt the president if you feel like it. [laughter] my first question, mr. president, is the obvious one. a friend of mine said yesterday, when do presidents do panels? and what came to mind is the late admiral stockdale, "who am i? why am i here? and i'd like to ask you why you decided -- this is a very unusual venue for a president to put himself in -- and i'd like to ask you where do you hope this discussion will lead beyond today? i was struck with something you said in your speech last week, you said, politicians talk about poverty and inequality, and then gut policies that help alleviate poverty and reverse inequality. why are you doing this, and how do you want us to come out of here? barack obama: first of all, i want to thank president degioia, the georgetown community, all the groups -- nonprofits,
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faith-based groups and others -- who are hosting this today. and i want to thank this terrific panel. i think that we are at a moment -- in part because of what's happened in baltimore, and ferguson and other places, but , in part because a growing awareness of inequality in our society -- where it may be possible not only to refocus attention on the issue of poverty, but also maybe to bridge some of the gaps that have existed and the ideological divides that have prevented us from making progress. there are a lot of folks here who i have worked with -- they disagree with me on some issues, but they have great sincerity when it comes to wanting to deal with helping the least of these. and so this is a wonderful occasion for us to join together. part of the reason i thought this venue would be useful and i
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wanted to have a dialogue with bob and arthur is that we have been stuck, i think for a long time, in a debate that creates a couple of straw men. the stereotype is that you've got folks on the left who just want to pour more money into social programs, and don't care anything about culture or parenting or family structures, and that's one stereotype. and then you've got cold-hearted, free market, capitalist types who are reading ayn rand and -- (laughter) -- think everybody are moochers. and i think the truth is more complicated. i think that there are those on
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the conservative spectrum who deeply care about the least of these, deeply care about the poor -- exhibit that through their churches, through community groups, through philanthropic efforts, but are suspicious of what government can do. and then there are those on the left who i think are in the trenches every day, and see how important parenting is and how important family structures are, and the connective tissue that holds communities together and recognize that that contributes to poverty when those structures fray, but also believe that government and resources can make a difference in creating an environment in which young people can succeed despite great odds. and it seems to me that if coming out of this conversation
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we can have a both/and conversation rather than either/or conversation, then we'll be making some progress. and the last point i guess i want to make is i also want to emphasize we can do something about these issues. i think it is a mistake for us to suggest that somehow every effort we make has failed and we are powerless to address poverty. that's just not true. first of all, just in absolute terms, the poverty rate when you take into account tax and transfer programs, has been reduced about 40% since 1967. now, that does not lessen our concern about communities where poverty remains chronic. it does suggest, though, that we have been able to lessen poverty when we decide we want to do
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something about it. in every low-income community around the country, there are programs that work to provide ladders of opportunity to young people, we just haven't figured out how to scale them up. and so one of the things i'm always concerned about is cynicism. my chief of staff, denis mcdonough -- we take walks around the south lawn, usually when the weather is good, and a lot of it is policy talk, sometimes it's just talk about values. and one of our favorite sayings is, our job is to guard against cynicism, particularly in this town. and i think it's important when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty, for us to guard against cynicism, and not buy the idea that the poor will always be with us and there's
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, nothing we can do -- because there's a lot we can do. the question is do we have the political will, the communal will to do something about it. joseph dionne jr.: thank you, mr. president. i feel as a journalist maybe i'm the one representative of cynicism up here. i will try to do my job. i want to go through the panel and come back to you, mr. president. i want to invite bob, and i'm going to encourage us to reach for solutions. but before we get there, i think it's important to say that your book, bob, your book, "our kids," is above all a moral call on the country to think about all the kids in the country who have been left out as our kids, in some deep way. and you make the point that the better off and the poor are now so far apart that the fortunate don't even see the lives of the unlucky and the left behind. you wrote, "before i began this research, i was like that." following on what the president said, you insist that the decline in social mobility, the blocking of the american dream
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for so many is a purple problem. and i may have some questions later on that, but i really would like you to lay out the red and blue components. and also, how do we break through a politics in which food stamp recipients are still somehow cast as privileged or the poor are demonized. but i'd like you to lay out sort of the moral call of your book. robert: thanks to the president and to arthur for joining me in this conversation. i think in this domain there's good news and bad news, and it's important to begin with the bad news because we have to understand where we are. the president is absolutely right that the war on poverty did make a real difference, but it made a difference more for poverty among people of my age than it did for poverty among kids. and with respect to kids, i completely agree with the president that we know about some things that would work and things that would make a real difference in the lives of poor
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kids, but what the book that you've deferred to, "our kids," what it presents is a lot of evidence of growing gaps between rich kids and poor kids, that over the last 30 or 40 years, things have gotten better and better for kids coming from well-off homes, and worse and worse for kids coming from less well-off homes. and i don't mean bill gates and some homeless person. i mean people coming from college-educated homes -- their kids are doing better and better, and people coming from high school-educated homes, their kids aren't. and it's not just that there's this class gap, but a class gap on our watch -- i don't mean just the president's watch, but i mean on my generation's watch -- that gap has grown. and you can see it in measures of family stability. you can see it in measures of the investments that parents are able to make in their kids, the investments of money and the investments of time. you can see it in the quality of schools kids go to. you can see it in the character of the social and community support that kids -- rich kids and poor kids are getting from
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their communities. church attendance is a good example of that, actually. churches are an important source of social support for kids outside their own family, but church attendance is down much more rapidly among kids coming from impoverished backgrounds than among kids coming from wealthy backgrounds. and so i think what all of that evidence suggests is that we do face, i think, actually a serious crisis in which, increasingly, the most important decision that anybody makes is choosing their parents. and if -- like my grandchildren are really smart, they were -- the best decision they ever made was to choose college-educated parents and great grandparents. but out there, someplace else, there isnother bunch of kids who are just as talented and just as -- in principle -- just as hardworking, but who happened to choose parents who weren't very well-educated or weren't high-income, and those kids' fate is being determined by things that they had no control over. and that's fundamentally unfair.
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it also is, by the way, bad for our economy, because when we have this large number of kids growing up in poverty, it's not like that's going to make things better for my grandchildren. it's going to make things worse for my grandchildren. so this is, in principle, a solution that we -- a problem that we ought to find solutions to. and historically, this is a kind of problem that americans have faced before and have solved, and this is the basis for my optimism. there have been previous periods in american history when we've had a great gap between rich and poor, when we've ignored the least of these, in which we've -- i'm thinking of the gilded age at the end of the 19th century -- and both of you have written about that period, in which there was a great gap between rich and poor and we were ignoring lots of kids, especially lots of immigrant kids. and america seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket. and there was a dominant philosophy, social darwinism, which said that it's better for everybody if everybody is selfish, and the devil take the hindmost. but that, unlike some of the
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ideology of ayn rand that you referred to -- but that period was quickly -- not quickly -- but was overcome by a real awakening of the conscience of america across party lines, with the important contribution of religious leaders and religious people, to the fact that these are all our kids. and now is not the time to rehearse all of the lessons of that earlier period, but i think it does actually give me grounds for hope. this is a kind of problem that we could solve as long as we all recognize that it's in everybody's interest to raise up these poor kids and not to leave them in the dust. joseph dionne jr.: thank you very much. by the way, let the record show the president was not looking at arthur when he referred to cold-hearted capitalists. [laughter] but it is nice to have somebody here from the aei.
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brooks well, d.j.: when the president said that, i was just thinking -- what was going through my head was, please don't look at me, please don't look at me. [laughter] but you notice when bob said this -- about the social darwinism, he pointed at me. so i'm more outnumbered than my thanksgiving table in seattle, let me tell you. joseph dionne jr.: you just have to look into your heart, arthur. and in fact, that's kind of what i want to ask you to do here. i mean, your views on these subjects have actually changed, and i think it's one of the reasons you wanted to join us today. back in 2010, you talked about makers and takers in society and a culture of redistribution. but in february 2014, you wrote a very important article and commentary -- the open-handed toward your brothers -- and you said we have to declare peace on the safety net, which i think is a really important thing to say. and as the president suggested, the safety net we have has actually cut poverty substantially. so twin questions -- could you
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talk about how and why your own views have changed -- if i've fairly characterized that. and in the spirit we're celebrating here of trans-ideological nonpartisanship -- now, there's a mouthful for you -- in that spirit, where can republicans cooperate with democrats, conservatives with liberals, on safety net issues like making the earned income tax credit permanent or expanding the child tax credit? i mean, where can we find not just verbal common ground, but actual common ground to get things done for the least among us? arthur c. brooks: thank you, e.j. and thank you, mr. president. it's an honor to be here and with all of you. this is such an important exercise in bringing catholics and evangelicals together, but having a public discussion. one of the main things that i do as president of aei is to talk publicly about issues and start a conversation with my colleagues in a way that i hope can stimulate the conversation and spread it around the country. at the american enterprise institute -- where we have a longstanding history of work on the nature of american capitalism -- when we're
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focusing very deeply on poverty, it sends a signal to a lot of people that are deeply involved in the free enterprise movement. my colleague, robert doar is here -- he came to aei because poverty is the most important thing to him. and indeed, the reason i came into the free enterprise movement many years ago is because poverty is the thing i care about the most. and in point of fact, 2 billion people around the world have been lifted up out of poverty because of ideas revolving around free enterprise and free trade, and the globalization of ideas of sharing through property rights and rule of law, and all the things that the president is talking about in policy debates right now. that's why i'm in this particular movement. but we've gotten into a partisan moment where we substitute a moral consensus about how we serve the least of these, our brothers and sisters, where we pretend that that moral
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isferences -- instances impossible and we blow up policy differences until they become a holy war. that's got to stop because it's completely unnecessary. [applause] and we can stop that, absolutely, with a couple of key principles. so how are we on the center right talking about poverty in the most effective way? number one is with a conceptual matter. we have a grave tendency on both the left and the right to talk about poor people as "the other." remember in matthew 25, these are our brothers and sisters. jim olsen and i have this roadshow -- we go to campuses and everybody wants to set up something, right-left debates, and it never works out, because it turns out we both have a commitment to the teachings of the savior when it comes to treating the least of these, our brothers and sisters. when you talk about people as your brothers and sisters you don't talk about them as liabilities to manage. they're not liabilities to manage. they're assets to develop because every one of us made in
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god's image is an asset to develop. that's a completely different approach to poverty alleviation. that's a human capital approach to poverty alleviation. that's what we can do to stimulate that conversation on the political right, just as it can be on the political left. one concept that rides along with that is to point out -- and this is what i do to many of my friends on capitol hill -- i remind them that just because people are on public assistance doesn't mean they want to be on public assistance. and that's the difference between people who factually are making a living and who are , accepting public assistance. it's an important matter to remember about the motivations of people and humanizing them. and then the question is, how can we come together? how can we come together? i have, indeed, written that it's time to declare peace on the safety net. and i say that as a political conservative. why? because ronald reagan said that,
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because friedrich hayek said that. this is not a radical position. in fact, the social safety net is one of the greatest achievements of free enterprise -- that we could have the wealth and largesse as a society, that we can help take care of people who are poor that we've never even met. it is a historic, it's never happened before. we should be proud of that. but then when i talk to conservative policymakers, and say how should you distinguish yourself from the traditional positions in a marketplace of ideas from progressives, you should also talk about the fact that the safety net should be limited to people who are truly indigent, as opposed to being spread around in a way that metastasizes into middle-class entitlements and imperils our economy. and the third part is thatelp should always come with the dignifying power of work to the extent that we can. then we can have, with these three ideas -- declaring peace on the safety net, safety net only for the indigent, and always with work -- then we can have an interesting moral consensus and policy competition
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of ideas and maybe make some progress. joseph dionne jr.: thank you. in fact, i'm hoping people will challenge each other about what that actually means in terms of policy. and i want to invite the president to do that. i'm tempted, mr. president, to ask you to sort of go in a couple of directions at once. one is, i am, again, hoping that you can enlist arthur as your lobbyist on this. one kind of question i want to ask is if john boehner and mitch mcconnell were watching this and suddenly had a conversion -- and there are a lot of religious people in the audience, so miracles -- barack obama: i assure you they're not watching this. but it's a hypothetical.
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e.j. dionne: it is a religious audience -- they believe in miracles. they were persuaded that it is time we do something about the poor. tell us a few things that will pass. when you think about -- we can talk abstractly about the family on this side and what government can do, what do you think would make a difference? that is one question i intended to ask and maybe you could put that in the context of bob's mention of the gilded age. i was taken by that. help me. president obama: a couple of years ago. e.j. dionne: it did put this conversation in context where we seem to be having the problems we had back then. what would you tell congress, please help me on this -- and how do we move out of this gilded age feeling? president obama: let me tease out a couple things what bob and arthur said and challenge them. they may want to respond. let me talk about big picture and then we can talk about specifics. first of all, i think we can stipulate that the best anti-poverty program is a job, which brings income, structure, dignity and a sense of
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community. we have to spend time thinking about the macroeconomy, the broader economy. what has happened is, since 1973, over the last 40 years, the share of income going to the bottom 90% has shrunk from about 65% to 53%. a big transfer. we cannot have a conversation about poverty without talking about what has happened to the middle class and the latter's of opportunity into the middle class.
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when i read bob's book, the first thing that strikes you is, when he's growing up in ohio, he is in a community where the banker, living in proximity to the janitor at the school, the janitor's daughter may be going out with the banker's son. they may attend the same church, the a member of the same rotary club. they maybe active at the same parks. all the things that stitch them together contributes to social mobility and a sense of possibility and opportunity for all kids in that community. now, part of what has happened
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-- and this is where arthur and i have some disagreements. we do not dispute that free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history, it has lifted millions of people out of poverty. we believe in property rights, rule of law, so forth. but, there has always been trends in the market in which concentrations of wealth can't lead to some being left behind. what has happened in our economy is that those doing better and better, more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages, are withdrawing from the commons, kids to private schools, kids start working at private clubs instead of the public parks. an anti-government ideology that disinvest from those common goods and things that draw us together. that, in part, contributes to the fact that there is less opportunity for all of our kids.
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that is not inevitable, a free market is compatible with making investment in good public schools, public universities, investment in public parks, a whole bunch -- public infrastructure that grows our economy and spreads it around. that has been under attack. rather than soften the edges of the market, turbo-charge it. we have not been willing to make
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those common investments so that everybody can play a part in getting opportunity. one other thing i have to say about this -- even back in bob's day, that was happening, just not to black people. in some ways, part of what is changed is that those bias or restrictions to who had access to resources that allowed them to climb out of poverty -- who had access to the firefighters job? who had access to the assembly line job, the blue-collar job that pays well enough to be in the middle class and guide you to the suburbs and the next generation was office workers? all those were closed to a big
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chunk of the minority population in this country for decades. that accumulated and built up. people with less resources, more strains, it is hard being poor. people do not like being poor, it is time-consuming, stressful, it is hard. over time, families afraid, men who could not get jobs left, mothers single not able to read as much to their kids. that was happening to african-americans and that we are seeing those same trends have accelerated and are spreading to the broader community. the pattern is no different in your stories, when william julius talk about the truly disadvantaged.
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i know that was not an answer to your question -- [laughter] i will answer, but i think it is important to a knowledge, if we are going to find common ground, we have to realize we -- there are investments we are willing to make as a society as a whole in public schools and public universities. today, i believe early childhood education. in making sure that economic opportunity is available in communities that are isolated. and that somebody can get a job and there is a train that takes folks to where the jobs are. that broadband lines are in rural communities and not just in cities. those things are not going to happen through market forces alone. if that is the case, then our
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government and budgets have to reflect our willingness to make those investments. if we do not make those investments, we could agree on the earned income tax credit, which i know arthur believes in, we could agree on home visitation for low income parents, all those things will make a difference, but the broader trend in our society will make it harder and harder for us to deal with old inequality and poverty. i think it is important for us to recognize, there is a genuine debate, that is what portion of our collective wealth and budget are we willing to invest in those things that allow a poor kid, whether in a rural town or in appalachia or the inner-city to access what they need, oh in terms of mentors and social networks, as well as these and books and computers and so forth.
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in order to succeed along the terms that arthur discussed. right now, they do not have those things and they have been stripped away. look at state budget, city budgets, and federal budgets, we do not make those same common investments we used to and it has had an impact. we should not pretend that, somehow, we had been making those same investments, we have not been. there has been a specific ideological push not to make those investments. e.j. dionne: it gets to the underlying problem where we talk about let's tear down these ideological barriers, but they get rejected. how do you change the politics of that? you said mitch mcconnell and john boehner were unlikely to be watching us, that has a political significance. president obama: they have votes. e.j. dionne: how do you tear down those barriers? you laid out a robust agenda. how do you get from here to there?
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president obama: part of what happened in our politics, and part of what shifted from when bob was younger and seeing a genuine community. there was still class divisions in your small town here they were probably certain clubs or activities that were restricted to the bankers's son as opposed to the janitor's son. we are able to live together, away from folks who are not as wealthy.
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they feel less of a commitment. to making those investments. in that sense, what used to be racial segregation, now mirrors itself and classic segregation. this great sorting that has taken place creates its own politics. there are some communities where i do not know -- not only do i not know poor people, i do not know people who have trouble paying the bills at the end of the month. i do not know those people. there is less sense of investment in those children. that is part of what is happening. part of it has to -- there has always been a strain in american politics, where you have the
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middle class, and the question has been, who are you mad at if you are struggling? if you are working, but do not seem to be getting ahead. over the last 40 years, sadly, there has been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or be mad at folks at the bottom. i think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, do not want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction. look, it is being propagated. if you watch fox news on a regular basis, it is a constant menu -- they will find folks who make me mad. i do not know where they find them. [laughter] i just want a free obama phone. [laughter] that becomes their entire narrative. they get worked up. very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress -- much more typical, raising kids and doing everything right, but still cannot pay the bills.
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if we will change how john boehner and mitch mcconnell think, we will have to change how our body of politics thinks, which means changing how the media reports on these issues. how people's impressions of what it is like to struggle in this economy looks like. how budgets connect to that. that is a hard process, because that requires a much broader conversation than typically we have on the nightly news. e.j. dionne: i am tempted to welcome arthur to defend his network, but instead i want to invite him to -- [laughter]
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i want to invite you to the altar call, the president talked about basic public investments, that are old-fashioned. along the lines of somebody like president eisenhower supported. president obama: abraham lincoln thought land-grant colleges and infrastructure, investments in basic research was important. i suspect, arthur, you would agree in theory about those investments, then the question would be, how much? arthur brooks: no self-respecting person denies there are public goods, there are public goods. we need public goods, markets fail from time to time. there is a role for the state, there are no radical libertarians.
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the veterans who believe the state should not exist. libertarians who believe the state should not exist. we should not caricature the views of others. what we are talking about is, when are the public good, when can the government provide them and when are the benefits higher than the costs of the government providing these things? when we do not make cost-benefit activations at the macro level, the poor pay. if you look at what is happening in the periphery countries in europe, as george w. bush used to say, this is a true fact. [laughter] it is more emphasis, there is nothing wrong -- [laughter] if you do not pay attention to the macro economy and the fiscal
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stability, you will become insolvent and you will have austerity and if you have austerity, the poor pay. the rich never pay, they are never left with the bill. if you join me in believing in the safety net is a fundamental moral right and privilege of our society to provide, you must avoid austerity and you must avoid insolvency, and the only way is by smart policies. i am 100% sure the president agrees with me. can you believe he said obama phone? [laughter] and he is against the obama phone. [laughter] only because they took away his phone. since we believe there should be public goods, we are talking about the system that provides them efficiently.
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the president talked about the changing structure of the income distribution and it is true. what i would urge us to regret is this notion that it is not a shift, but a transfer. the rich have not gotten richer because the poor have gotten poorer, they are not having their money taken away and given to the rich, we might be concerned with that because that reflects on opportunity. as an opportunity society, equal opportunity society, we should be concerned with that. to the extent we should get away from this notion that the rich are stealing from the poor, then we can look at this in a way that is constructive. why -- because the rich are our neighbors and the poor are our neighbors. getting away from that rhetoric is important. lastly, as we come to consensus, is removing that capitalism or socialism or social democracy or
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any system is just the system. it is just a machine. it is like your car, you can do great good or great evil with it. they cannot go uninhabited so far, it cannot ride on its own. the economy never will be able to. capitalism is a system and it must be predicated on right morals. it must be. adam smith taught me that. the father of modern economics, wrote "the wealth of nations." 17 years before, he wrote the "theory of moral sentiments," a more important book, because it talked about what it meant as a society to earn the right to free enterprise. it is true today. this is why this conference is important. from my point of view. because we are talking about right morality towards our brothers and sisters, and built on that, that is when we can have an open discussion to get our capitalism right and then
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the distribution of resources is a tertiary question. e.j. dionne: i want to know how much infrastructure you are willing to vote for? arthur brooks: $41 billion. e.j. dionne: this is for president -- the president and bob. in this conversation about poverty, there is a consensus on the stage that you need to care about family structure, it really matters. if you do not worry about the economy, you're not thinking about why the battering rams against the families. the family conversation can make a lot of people feel uneasy, because it sounds like you are not taking politics seriously or you're not taking the real economic pleasure seriously. i want to share two things with
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the president and bob and have you respond. one, i ask a lot of smart people, what they would ask if they were in my position. one smart economist said, what we know is when we have tight labor markets, unemployment down below 4% or lower. maybe this person said, even though he said, family structure matters, let's stop with the moral lectures and run a tight economic policy and have good things happen to us. the other thing i want to share -- i am being pointed, because you know and i have heard you talk about this, not that often, publicly, i have heard you in other sessions you do with opinion reporters. something was written in 2013 about your talk about what needs to happen inside the african-american community. it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this white house
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has one way of progressing the social ills that afflict black people, particularly black youth and addressing everyone else. i would have a hard time convincing the president of barnard that there is no longer room for any excuses as though they were in the business of making them. maybe it is about economics primarily, because we cannot do much about the other things through government policy. answer the critique. i know you hear that a lot. robert putnam: i will try to respond to that. i want to comment briefly on that earlier conversation about public goods. i agree with the president's framing of the issue and that we have just invested in collective assets that would benefit everybody, but are more important for poor people because they cannot do it on their own.
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i want to give one example, where we have shot ourselves in the foot, for most of the 20th century, all americans thought that part of getting a good education was getting soft skills, not just reading and writing and arithmetic. part of that was everybody in the country got free access to extracurricular activities, band, football, and music. beginning about 20 years ago, a view developed that is evil that that is a frill. we say, if you want to take part in music and football, you have to pay for. then poor people cannot pay for it. $1600 on average for to get in a family, to play football or play in the band, or the french club, not a big deal if your income is $200,000, but if your income is $16,000, who would pay?
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it seems like the benefits, of learning teamwork and hard skills grit, were only on the individual, that was not true, the whole country was benefiting from the fact that we had a broad-based set of skills. i am trying to emphasize how the runs this antipathy in some quarters that these are all our kids and we have to invest in all of them. i want to come back to the thing we have not spent enough time on, this is a purple problem. those of us on the left can see most clearly the economic sources of this problem and want to do some thing about it.
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there are people on the conservative side, who use a different lens and can see most clearly the effects of family disruption among poor families of all races on the prospect of kids. and the stories of kids we gathered across america, i want to return not just the abstract discussion, but to real kids. but, part of that is because mary's parents paid in irresponsible ways. we interviewed a kid from duluth who is now on drugs, how did you get on dru -- her dad was addicted to meth and wanted to get high, but did not want to get high alone, so her dad taught molly how to do meth. i don't even know how to do it. i have to check. we all know this. i am not making an attack on single moms who are often doing
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terrific jobs in the face of lots of obstacles, but i am saying it is harder to do that and therefore we need to think, all of us, even those on the more progressive side have to think, how did we get into a state in which two thirds of american kids have only a single parent and what can we do to fix that? i'm not sure it is the government's role. all of us have to think about this purple side of the problem if we are concerned with poverty. this family side of the problem. those of us -- i am now speaking to my side of the choir, we should not assume that anybody who talks about family stability is somehow saying that the economics don't matter -- of course they matter. [applause] president obama: a couple of
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things i would say. going back to something arthur said. about how we characterize the wealthy and do they take this extra wealth from the poor, middle class? these are broad economic trends. turbo-charged by technology and globalization. a winner take all economy that allows those with even slightly better skills to massively expand their reach and markets and they make more money and it gets more concentrated and it reinforces itself. there are values and decisions that have aided and abetted that process. for example, in the era that bob was talking about -- if you had a company in that town, that company had a whole bunch of social restraints on it. the ceo felt he was a member of that community. the sense of obligation about
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paying a certain wage, or contributing to the local high school, was real. today, the average fortune 500 company, some are great corporate citizens, some are great employers, but they do not have to be, and that is not how they are judged. that may account for the fact that, where a previous ceo might have made 50 times the average wage of the worker, they might now make 1000 times or 2000 times.
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that is now accepted practice inside of the corporate boardroom it. that's not because they are bad people. those values have changed. sometimes tax policy has encouraged that. there is a literature that justifies that. that's what you need to get the best ceo. littleu do tip into a objectivism. if they are not on a panel, they will say we created all of this. we are creating value. we should be able to make decisions about where it goes. there is less commitment to public goods.
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point number two on this family character values structure issue a commencementg at morehouse, i will have a conversation with young black men about taking responsibility as fathers. i probably will not do that with the women of barnardo. i make no apologies for that. the reason is because i am a black man who grew up without a father. i know the cost that i paid for that. i also know that i have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, i think my daughters are better off. [applause]
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i will talk until you're blue in the face. i've got a bunch of kids right now who are graduating. i want to give them some sense that they can have an impact on their immediate circumstances and the joys of fatherhood. we did something with my brothers keepers, which emphasizes apprenticeships and corporate responsibility, and we are gathering resources to give concrete hooks for kids to be able to advance.
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i am going very hard at issues of criminal justice reform and breaking this school-to-prison pipeline that exist for so many young african-american men. when i'm talking to these kids and i have a boy who says, how did you get over being mad at your dad, because i have a father that beat my mom and has left? and has left the state and i have never seen him because he is trying to avoid $83,000 in child support payments. i want to love my dad, but i do not know how to do that. i will not have a conversation with him about macro economics. [laughter] [applause] i'm going to have a conversation with him about how i tried to understand what it is that my father had gone through. ties in his relationships with his children, so that i could forgive him.
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this is what i mean -- this is where i agree with bob, this is not an either-or conversation. the reason we get trapped in these conversations is because too often, not arthur, but those who have argued against a safety net, or argued against government programs, have used the rationale that character matters, family matters, values matter, as a rationale for the disinvestment of public goods that took place over the course of 20 to 30 years.
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if the most important thing is character and parents, then it is ok if we do not have band and music and a school computer -- that is the argument you will hear. there are immigrant kids who are learning at schools that are much worse and we are spending huge amounts in the district and we still get poorer outcomes, so oviously money is not the issue. you hear logic that is used as an excuse to under-invest in those public goods. that's why i think a lot of people are resistant. and are skeptical of that conversation. what i am saying is, guarding against cynicism, what we should say is, we are going to argue hard for those public investments. we will argue hard for early childhood education, because, if a young kid, 3, 4 years old is hearing a lot of words, science tells us they will be more
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likely to succeed at school and if they have trained and these only paid teachers in that preschools -- decently paid teachers, by the time they are in third grade, they will be reading at grade level. we will argue hard for that money. if we do those things, the values and the characters those kids are learning in a loving environment, where they can succeed in school and being praised and read at grade level, and they are less likely to drop out. it turns out, when they succeed at school, a are less likely to get pregnant as teens and less likely to engage in drugs and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. that is a reinforcement of the values and characters we want.
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that is where we, as a society, have the capacity to make a real difference. it will cost us some money. it will cost us some money. it is not free. you look at a state like california, it used to have by far the best public higher education system in the world. there is a direct correlation between proposition 13 and the slow this investment in the public university system, so it became expensive. and kids got priced out of the market. or they took on a whole bunch of debt, and that was a public policy choice. based on folks not wanting to pay property taxes. that is true in cities across the country and states across the country. that is a big part of our political argument.
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i am all for values and character, but i also know that the values our kids have that allow them to succeed, discipline and hard work, all those things and part are shaped i what they see. what they see early on. some of those kids, because of no fault of those kids, and history, and some tough going generationally, some of those kids are not going to get help at home. the question becomes, are we committed to helping them? e.j. dionne: i want to follow up on that, mr. president. a lot of us feel that we made bargains with our friends on the conservative side, i agree with the idea that you have to care about what happens in the family if you're going to care about social justice and you have to care about social justice if you care about the family.
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yet, when people like you start talking like this, there does not seem to be much give back on, ok, we agree on these values, where is the investment in the kids? when welfare reform was passed in the 1990's, there were a lot of people who said, we will not hear about welfare cheats anymore because all these people will have to work. we get the same thing again, it is as if the work requirement was never put in the welfare bill. how do we change this conversation so it becomes an actual bargain where the other half of the agenda you talked about gets recognized and we do something about it? president obama: i will ask arthur for advice on this.
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the devil is in the details. if you talk to any of my republican friends, they will say, number one, they care about the poor, and i believe them. number two, they say there are public goods that have to be made, and i believe them. when it comes to actually establishing budgets, making choices, prioritizing, that is when it starts breaking down. i think that there will come a time when political pressure leads to a shift, because more and more families, not just inner-city african-american families or hispanic families, but more and more middle-class or working-class folks are feeling pinched and squeezed. that there will be a greater demand for core public goods and we will have to find a way to pay for them. but, ultimately, they will have to be choices made. when i make an argument about closing the carried interest loophole that exists, hedge fund
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managers are paying 15% on the fees and income they collect. i have been called hitler for doing this -- like hitler going into poland, that is an actual quote from a hedge fund manager. the top 25 hedge fund managers made more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country.
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i am not saying that because i dislike hedge fund managers or i think they are evil. i am saying that you are paying a lower rate than a lot of folks who are making $300,000 a year. you pretty much have more than you will ever be able to use in your life, and your family will be able to use. there is a fairness issue, and if we were able to close that loophole, i can invest in early childhood education that will make a different. that is where the rubber hits the road. that, arthur, the question of compassion and am i my brother's keeper comes into play. if we cannot ask from society's
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lottery winners to make that modest investment, this conversation is for show. if we cannot ask -- [applause] that is where -- by the way, i am not asking to go back to 70% marginal rates, which existed in the golden days that bob is talking about when he was a kid. i'm just saying, maybe we can go tax them like ordinary income, which means they might have to pay a true rate of around 23% to 25%, which, by historical standards, postwar era and would be low.
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if we cannot bridge that gap, we will not make as much progress as we need to. although we can find some areas of agreement like the earned income credit, which i give arthur credit for extolling, because it could strengthen families. arthur brooks: these are show issues, corporate jets are show issues. the real issue, middle-class entitlements. 70% of the federal budget, that is where the real money is. until we can take that on, if we want to make progress, the left and right want to make progress as they put together budgets, they will have to make progress on that. if we want to increase taxes on carried interest, that is fine for me. not that i can speak for everybody, certainly not everybody on the republican side. by the way, mitch mcconnell and john boehner are watching, at least indirectly and paying attention.
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they care a lot about this. they care a lot about culture and economics. they care about poverty. we have to be careful not to impugn the motives and imputing motives on the other side is the number one barrier against making progress. we should declare war on that and defeat it. then we can take on issues. it is important for us to do that. who, by the way, are you are having dinner with, when you're discussing ayn rand, and why was i not invited? [laughter] let's decide that we have a preference -- a rumble over how much money we are spending on public goods for poor people. republicans should say, i want to spend money on programs for the poor, but i think these ones are counterproductive and these once ineffective and democrats should say, no or not, we have never done them right and they have always been underfunded.
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we cannot get to that when politicians are conspiring not to touch middle-class entitlements. we are looking at it in terms of the right saying all the money is gone, and the left saying, we just need a lot more money on top of these things, when most people looking at it realized that this is an unsustainable path for lots of things, not just programs for the poor, we cannot adequately fund our military. we would have a tremendous amount of agreement about the misguided notion of the sequester. for lots of reasons, because we cannot spend money on purpose. that is what we need to do. an automatic path to spend tons of money in entitlements that are leading us to physical and sustainability, we cannot get to these aggressive conversations where conservatives and liberals agree and work together to help poor people and defend our nation.
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e.j. dionne: if they carry interest why can't we just move on? here's what i would like to do. i would like bob to speak and i have one last question for the president. robert putnam: we need to rise out of the washington bubble. we are speaking to an audience of people of faith, largely to america. i think we should not disempower ordinary americans, if they care about these problems, americans can change the politics that would, over the next five to 10 years, make a huge difference, i'm not talking about changing republican-democrat, making poverty and the opportunity to escape from poverty a higher issue on both parties agendas. [applause] i have hope that will happen. this may not be true, i
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understand there will be an election next year. president obama: that is a true fact. [applause] [laughter] robert putnam: i think american voters should say the highest priority issue is the income gap. ask candidates what will you do about it and use your own common sense. is that the right way to go? we need, as a country, not just from the top down, from across the grassroots, to focus on what we can do to reduce this opportunity gap. e.j. dionne: mr. president, i want you to reflect on this religious question. one of your forced salaries paid for by a group of catholic churches.
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not a lot of catholic bishops noticed that. you were organizing or a group of southside churches. you know what faith-based groups can do. talk about three things at the same time -- the religious community in calling attention to this problem. the issue as to how government can cooperate with these groups. and the prophetic role of these ideas for you where your own reflections on your own faith have led you. president obama: first of all, it is true, my first job was funded through the campaign for human development, the social
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justice -- [applause] and i think that faith-based groups across the country and around the world understand the centrality and importance of this issue. in a intimate way. in part because these faith-based organizations are interactive with folks struggling and no how good these people are and are aware of their stories. it is not just theological, it is concrete, they are embedded in communities and making a difference. what we have done is a continuation of work that had been done previously by the bush administration, the clinton administration.
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the office of faith-based organizations are working on an ongoing basis around a whole host of issues. my brother's keepers reaching out to churches and synagogues and mosques to try to figure out how do we reach young boys and young men in a serious way. but the one thing i want to say is that, when i think about my own christian faith and my obligations, it is important for me to do what i can myself, individually, mentoring young people or making donations. in some ways, impacting whatever circles of influence i have. i also think it is important to have a voice in the larger
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debate. and i think it would be powerful for our faith-based organizations to speak out on this in a more forceful fashion. this may sound self-interested, because there have been -- these are areas where i agree with faith-based groups and issues where we have had disagreements around reproductive issues or same-sex marriage or what have you. maybe it appears advantageous for me to focus on these issues of poverty and not as much on other issues. first of all, i will not be part of the election next year. this is more of a broader reflection of someone who has worked with churches and in communities.
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there is great caring and great concern, but, when it comes to what are you going to the mat for? what is the defining issue? when you are talking in your congregations, what is the thing going to capture the essence of who we are as christians? or as catholics? that this is often viewed as a nice to have, relative to an issue like abortion. that is not across the board, but there sometimes has been that view and certainly that is how it is perceived in our political circles. i think that there is more power to be had there.
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a more transformative voice available around these issues. that can move and touch people. because the one thing i know is that -- here is an area where arthur and i agree. i think people fundamentally want to do the right thing. people do not set out wanting to be selfish. people would like to see a society in which everybody has opportunities. i think that is true up and down the line, across the board. but they feel it is not possible. and there is noise out there and arguments and contention. people withdraw. they restrict themselves to what can i do in my church or my community, and that is important. our faith-based groups had the capacity to frame this and
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nobody has shown that better than pope francis, who has been transformative through the sincerity and insistence he has had that this is vital to who we are. this is vital to following what jesus christ our savior talked about. that emphasis is why we have had such incredible appeal, including two young people around the world, and i hope that is a message that everybody receives when it comes to visitors. i cannot wait to post them because it will spark a broader conversation. e.j. dionne: everything is better with a reference to pope francis. thank you, so much. [applause] i want to thank arthur and bob, and thank you bob for writing this book, and thank you mr.
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president for being here, and john and so many others for creating this. if i may close by quoting dr. king, "let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, bless you all." thank you, mr. president. [applause] ♪ >> on today's washington journal, "boston globe" political editor, shirov center on the 2016 presidential campaign. congress returns from its summer recess. summer -- congress debates the iran nuclear agreement. pope francis addresses a meeting later this month. we will talk about all of that